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In any kind of portrait it is often the subject's clothing that engages us most: fashion history is a fascinating topic and recognising the modes of different eras is an invaluable tool when trying to date unlabelled photographs.
Dress is a vast and complex subject, but here are some pointers to help with understanding, identifying and dating the clothing styles of those family members from the past who stood before the camera in their 'Sunday best'.
Jayne Shrimpton MA, photo dating expert and dress historian, offers a professional service to individuals and organisations wishing to date old photographs and artworks.
She works mainly with family historians, dating old photos, carte de viste cards, postcards, cabinet cards and analysing family pictures, but also helps institutions and groups who would like to date an old photo or understand their vintage image collection.
The photographer may have been using up old card stock, or the cabinet card may have been a re-printed copy made many years after the original photo was taken.
We received a Christmas card from the Llewellyn-Bowen family this week, Laurence, his wife and two daughters dressed up in a 1920s jazz style.
With a date, you can narrow the field of possible suspects and even, sometimes put a name to a face as it stares back at you from the past: Look at the format.
It is important to note, however, that these dating methods aren't always accurate.Everyone wished to create a good impression in the treasured photographs that would later be shown to family and friends and might be displayed in an album, or hung on the wall.Family historians often wonder whether their poorer forebears would have been able to dress very fashionably.Picture inquiries are handled individually and confidentially by email or occasionally in person, if a complete photograph album or fragile pictures are involved.Clients can choose from different services ranging from basic photo dating to advanced picture analysis expressed in a 1-2 page report.